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#1 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 12:14 PM

I've seen many historical dramas,such as the Chinese and Korean.
However,I'm still confused on what and how did they do it as they approach a commoner or an emperor.

In the modern world,a handshake,a simple bow or a nod of the head will do.

For the ancient Koreans,when they greet the king,they have to avoid eye contact and a great bow of course,with the right hand above the left and slowly lowering themselves on the ground and then stand up again.
Another one is when they approach the elders.They kneel and touch the floor with both hands and lowering their heads touching the hand.
Casual greetings will be a neat bow with hands placed at the sides for men and women with their hands tucked under the flap of their blouse as they bow.
Still,I'm not too sure about this.

As for the Chinese...
I've seen many historical dramas and they showed many ways on how the actors and actresses do it.
For example,the ladies placed both of their hands at one side(I do not know which side)and bent their legs a little and avoiding eye contact by lowering their head.
For men,the left hand covered the right fist as they approach someone.
What about approaching the emperor?
How did they do it?
Was it kneeling with both knees on the floor or just one?
I've seen soldiers and officials in the dramas doing flashy moves like a quick swish of their sleeves behind and kneel to the floor,saying praises for the emperor to hear.Some even went down on both knees with their foreheads touching the ground.

For the Japanese,I'm totally clueless on how they did it.

Can anyone tell me how did these people do it?
Pictures on how they did it will be even better.
Thanks in advance.

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#2 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 11:26 PM

You might want to refer to these threads:

http://www.chinahist...t=#entry4863411

http://www.chinahist...tiquette-video/

http://www.chinahist...?showtopic=3899

http://www.chinahist...?showtopic=8043

We already have many such discussions.

The traditional way is the Fist wrapping method known as Gong Shou 拱手

I've seen many historical dramas,such as the Chinese and Korean.
However,I'm still confused on what and how did they do it as they approach a commoner or an emperor.

In the modern world,a handshake,a simple bow or a nod of the head will do.

For the ancient Koreans,when they greet the king,they have to avoid eye contact and a great bow of course,with the right hand above the left and slowly lowering themselves on the ground and then stand up again.
Another one is when they approach the elders.They kneel and touch the floor with both hands and lowering their heads touching the hand.
Casual greetings will be a neat bow with hands placed at the sides for men and women with their hands tucked under the flap of their blouse as they bow.
Still,I'm not too sure about this.

As for the Chinese...
I've seen many historical dramas and they showed many ways on how the actors and actresses do it.
For example,the ladies placed both of their hands at one side(I do not know which side)and bent their legs a little and avoiding eye contact by lowering their head.
For men,the left hand covered the right fist as they approach someone.
What about approaching the emperor?
How did they do it?
Was it kneeling with both knees on the floor or just one?
I've seen soldiers and officials in the dramas doing flashy moves like a quick swish of their sleeves behind and kneel to the floor,saying praises for the emperor to hear.Some even went down on both knees with their foreheads touching the ground.


For the Chinese, when they are greeting the Emperor, the "Ketou 磕头" (kowtow or bowing) is unavoidable. You need to kneel down on your knees and bow with the head and hands onto the ground 3 times.

When they are greeting friends, the fist wrapping greeting Gong Shou 拱手 is good enough.


For the Japanese,I'm totally clueless on how they did it.

Can anyone tell me how did these people do it?
Pictures on how they did it will be even better.
Thanks in advance.


For the Japanese, they basically bow. The larger the angle of bowing, the more respect you're giving to the partners. In normal circumstance, 45 degree bow is good enough, but 90 degree bow means "very formal and deeply respectful".
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#3 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 08:50 AM

For the Japanese, they basically bow. The larger the angle of bowing, the more respect you're giving to the partners. In normal circumstance, 45 degree bow is good enough, but 90 degree bow means "very formal and deeply respectful".


Even when they approach the emperor?

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#4 dagann

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 11:08 AM

WuXiaHer0, it's funny.
I was about to post a topic about the same subject :greetblink:

I'm very interested about the etiquette and ranks issue, in Imperial China.
It seems there was an endless number of complex rules.

1/I would really like to know what was the etiquette when :
- you were adressing to someone with a higher rank than you
- you were adressing to someone with a lower rank than you
- you were adressing to someone with with the same rank than you

2/ By the way, when did the etiquette/protocol rules reach its peak ?
I would say under ming and qing dynasties, but i could be wrong.

3/ How would people and courtiers adress to the different members of the imperial family.
I guess there were nuances between the emperor, his mother,brothers and sisters; the empress, the concubines, the children (elder child, heir), and all with imperial blood.

Are there any books or websites about this particular subject ?

#5 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 11:45 AM

1/I would really like to know what was the etiquette when :
- you were adressing to someone with a higher rank than you
- you were adressing to someone with a lower rank than you
- you were adressing to someone with with the same rank than you


Well,I think they did the same thing to all people with different rank.
It's best to show politeness and modesty when greeting someone regardless of ranking.
Like GZ said,fist-wrapping will do.

2/ By the way, when did the etiquette/protocol rules reach its peak ?
I would say under ming and qing dynasties, but i could be wrong.


Reaching its peak?
Everyone has to show respect to the emperor in every dynasty.No doubt about it.
It's more like a common and logical thing to do as you approach the emperor,like saying "hello" when you meet someone.If you don't,well,your life might be in danger as it was considered that annoying the emperor was a serious crime.

3/ How would people and courtiers adress to the different members of the imperial family.
I guess there were nuances between the emperor, his mother,brothers and sisters; the empress, the concubines, the children (elder child, heir), and all with imperial blood.


Servants or ministers would address the members of the imperial family according to their position in the imperial family.I'm not very sure for this part.
As for the emperor,his sons and daughters would call him "fu huang" 父皇.As for the empress,her children would call her "mu hou" 母后.I can't think of the rest...

Are there any books or websites about this particular subject ?


You can have a look in Wikipedia.
Go to this site:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobility

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#6 dagann

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 12:31 PM

Well,I think they did the same thing to all people with different rank.
It's best to show politeness and modesty when greeting someone regardless of ranking.
Like GZ said,fist-wrapping will do.

Are you sure ?
Lets' say you are an official with the smallest rank. You will not adress and greet an official from the middle rank the same way you adress and greet an official of the higest rank.
As you said at the end of your post, you adress people according to their rank and position, and according to your rank and position.


Reaching its peak?
Everyone has to show respect to the emperor in every dynasty.No doubt about it.
It's more like a common and logical thing to do as you approach the emperor,like saying "hello" when you meet someone.If you don't,well,your life might be in danger as it was considered that annoying the emperor was a serious crime.

I will try to rephrase:
When did the etiquette rules became the most complex/demanding in imperial china ?
In France, i would say etiquette in the court of Louis XIV was by far more demanding than under the reign of its predecessors.
Etiquette was bring to a climax. Forgetting one of this rules could ruin your life.


Servants or ministers would address the members of the imperial family according to their position in the imperial family.I'm not very sure for this part.
As for the emperor,his sons and daughters would call him "fu huang" 父皇.As for the empress,her children would call her "mu hou" 母后.I can't think of the rest...

If you are supposed to kneel down in front of the Emperor, i guess the fist-wrapping would be not enough to greet the impress, or the heir, for example. An i guess you would not greet them as you would greet the Emperor.

Edited by dagann, 11 December 2009 - 12:33 PM.


#7 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 08:03 AM

Are you sure ?
Lets' say you are an official with the smallest rank. You will not adress and greet an official from the middle rank the same way you adress and greet an official of the higest rank.
As you said at the end of your post, you adress people according to their rank and position, and according to your rank and position.


A kowtow to an official higher than you would not be necessary,dagann...
Fist-wrapping accompanied by a bow for a lower rank official is respectful enough.
You won't have to reach to an extent to boot-lick the higher ranking officials.You will have no dignity.

What I meant by showing respect to all officials regardless of rank and position is if you're a higher ranking official,you would still have to fist-wrap to show politeness.

Fist-wrapping with a bow is for lower rank officials.
As for a higher rank official,a fist-wrap without bowing would suffice.

The kowtow was reserved for the imperial family only.
Other than that,people will only kowtow to a person whom they really admire or respect such as their parents or grandparents or their ancestors.

I will try to rephrase:
When did the etiquette rules became the most complex/demanding in imperial china ?
In France, i would say etiquette in the court of Louis XIV was by far more demanding than under the reign of its predecessors.
Etiquette was bring to a climax. Forgetting one of this rules could ruin your life.


I never heard of records when etiquette was brought to a climax in China.
Everybody treated the emperor with utmost respect already.Everyone can remember the basic rules.In any case,if the emperor's mood has changed,one has to be flexible enough on how to react.There's no hard and fast rules,only the basic ones such as kowtow and avoid eye contact.

If you are supposed to kneel down in front of the Emperor, i guess the fist-wrapping would be not enough to greet the impress, or the heir, for example. An i guess you would not greet them as you would greet the Emperor.


You don't fist-wrap in front of the emperor,dagann.
Like I said,kowtow was reserved for the imperial family only.
Kowtow and avoid eye contact.Also,you might want to avoid pointing out the emperor's mistake.Most emperors lost their temper and beheaded some advisers and there were others that were safe because of the empress or ministers persuasions.

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 13 December 2009 - 08:08 AM.

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#8 dagann

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 02:58 PM

Thx WuXiaHer0. That helps.

But the ancient chinese society seems to be so "codified", with many rituals, ceremonials, ranks, etc... than i can not imagine there were only a few way to greet, and no reel differences between ranks greetings.


In the french translation of Water Margin, there are many notes: one of wich is about about etiquette/greetings.
I guess it refers to Sung dynasty.
It states that the number and variety of greetings gestures was considerable.
It gives a few example, in order of increasing deference:
I hope my translation is not too bad. Tell me what you think about these different greeting


-gong-shou:
greet, with hands clasped in front of the chest
-zuo-yi:
greet, bowing with arms hanging, then stand up straight, clasping hands in front of the chest
-da-qian:
greet, bending a knee (as if you we are about to kneel down, but without kneeling down)
-gui:
kneel down
-kou-tou or kou-shou:
kneel down and touch the floor with the forehead
-san-kou:
same as before, repeated 3 times before getting off the ground
-liu-kou:
kneel down, touch the floor 3 times with the forehead, get off the ground. Then, kneel down again, touch the floor with the forehead 3 times again.
-jiu-gui san-kou:
the same ritual repeated 3 times ( reserved for homages to Emperor or to Heaven)

Edited by dagann, 13 December 2009 - 04:39 PM.


#9 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 01:14 AM

Thx WuXiaHer0. That helps.

But the ancient chinese society seems to be so "codified", with many rituals, ceremonials, ranks, etc... than i can not imagine there were only a few way to greet, and no reel differences between ranks greetings.


In the french translation of Water Margin, there are many notes: one of wich is about about etiquette/greetings.
I guess it refers to Sung dynasty.
It states that the number and variety of greetings gestures was considerable.
It gives a few example, in order of increasing deference:
I hope my translation is not too bad. Tell me what you think about these different greeting


-gong-shou:
greet, with hands clasped in front of the chest
-zuo-yi:
greet, bowing with arms hanging, then stand up straight, clasping hands in front of the chest
-da-qian:
greet, bending a knee (as if you we are about to kneel down, but without kneeling down)
-gui:
kneel down
-kou-tou or kou-shou:
kneel down and touch the floor with the forehead
-san-kou:
same as before, repeated 3 times before getting off the ground
-liu-kou:
kneel down, touch the floor 3 times with the forehead, get off the ground. Then, kneel down again, touch the floor with the forehead 3 times again.
-jiu-gui san-kou:
the same ritual repeated 3 times ( reserved for homages to Emperor or to Heaven)


These were more like for rituals,not everyday greetings,except for kowtow/ke tou and other way of greeting that involves fist-wrap/gong shou.
Etiquette in everyday greetings and rituals were different.
I think you're confused...lol!!

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 14 December 2009 - 01:16 AM.

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#10 Jaak

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 05:21 PM

A kowtow to an official higher than you would not be necessary,dagann...
Fist-wrapping accompanied by a bow for a lower rank official is respectful enough.
You won't have to reach to an extent to boot-lick the higher ranking officials.You will have no dignity.

What I meant by showing respect to all officials regardless of rank and position is if you're a higher ranking official,you would still have to fist-wrap to show politeness.

Fist-wrapping with a bow is for lower rank officials.
As for a higher rank official,a fist-wrap without bowing would suffice.

The kowtow was reserved for the imperial family only.

What was the policy regarding people who appeared before a magistrate/judge?

I never heard of records when etiquette was brought to a climax in China.
Everybody treated the emperor with utmost respect already.Everyone can remember the basic rules.In any case,if the emperor's mood has changed,one has to be flexible enough on how to react.There's no hard and fast rules,only the basic ones such as kowtow and avoid eye contact.

I remember it mentioned that During Tang dynasty, emperors used to sit down with their ministers of state to gold state councils. In Song dynasty, the emperors sat, but the ministers had to stand. In Ming dynasty, the ministers had to kneel.

There would be matters of practicality. Does the emperor want to hear the advise of ministers who are sitting as comfortable as him? Does he want to spend time on his ministers performing kowtow as they show up, or does he want them to greet him briefly, sit down and be ready to get to business?

#11 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 02:04 AM

What was the policy regarding people who appeared before a magistrate/judge?

I don't know.
Kneeling down before he passed a judgment,maybe?
I've seen many historical dramas and the people who appeared before the magistrate/judge were always kneeling on four on the ground.

There would be matters of practicality. Does the emperor want to hear the advise of ministers who are sitting as comfortable as him? Does he want to spend time on his ministers performing kowtow as they show up, or does he want them to greet him briefly, sit down and be ready to get to business?


I don't know.Maybe emperors of different dynasties imposed different rules as how to approach the emperor.
I think emperors would like their ministers to get on with it quick.An emperor has to tend to state affairs almost everyday without fail.I'm sure he didn't want to waste time waiting for his ministers to complete a deep kowtow,wouldn't he?

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#12 dagann

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 02:52 PM

These were more like for rituals,not everyday greetings,except for kowtow/ke tou and other way of greeting that involves fist-wrap/gong shou.
Etiquette in everyday greetings and rituals were different.
I think you're confused...lol!!

I'm not confusing rituals and greetings. :greetblink:
The french translator of Water Margin, writed before these exemple: I tried to translate
Here, to give an idea of some customary rites,everyday greetings,in order of increasing deference:

For me, he says they are usual greetings.
So, is he wrong ? If yes, which sources states they are for rituals?
Or, does the autor, with "everyday greetings " mean the ritual greetings AND the etiquette greetings ?

I remember it mentioned that During Tang dynasty, emperors used to sit down with their ministers of state to gold state councils. In Song dynasty, the emperors sat, but the ministers had to stand. In Ming dynasty, the ministers had to kneel.

There would be matters of practicality. Does the emperor want to hear the advise of ministers who are sitting as comfortable as him? Does he want to spend time on his ministers performing kowtow as they show up, or does he want them to greet him briefly, sit down and be ready to get to business?

Interesting point. It suggests Etiquette varied with Emperors and/or dynasties.
So as i was trying to say before :rolleyes: , we can imagine an etiquette climax during a dynasty or under emperors rules.

I don't know.
Kneeling down before he passed a judgment,maybe?
I've seen many historical dramas and the people who appeared before the magistrate/judge were always kneeling on four on the ground.

I have just seen there was a tv drama base on water margin, with english subtitles :clapping:
But can we really rely on these historical dramas ?
Is there really a serious and extensive research work on historical sources to make these movies?
Cause i'm afraid they are full of "clichés", mistakes and anachronisms.

Edited by dagann, 16 December 2009 - 03:44 PM.


#13 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 06:47 AM

I don't know.
Kneeling down before he passed a judgment,maybe?
I've seen many historical dramas and the people who appeared before the magistrate/judge were always kneeling on four on the ground.


I have just seen there was a tv drama base on water margin, with english subtitles :clapping:
But can we really rely on these historical dramas ?
Is there really a serious and extensive research work on historical sources to make these movies?
Cause i'm afraid they are full of "clichés", mistakes and anachronisms.

Well,most dramas are a wee bit exaggerated to attract more viewers.
One cannot depend too much on a historical drama unless extensive research and confirmations are made.
I've read many Chinese classical stories and most people who were brought before the magistrate would have to kneel down.So,can these be considered as evidence?

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 17 December 2009 - 06:53 AM.

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